If you get a promotion, a great present from your spouse, or even a compliment, chances are 2 things are going to happen – you’ll feel happy and you'll smile. While we typically think of our faces as billboards advertising the emotions inside of us, it's also true that changing your facial expressions can change your mood. Smiling can make you feel happier, showing fear can make you feel more fearful, and frowning can make you feel sadder.
What happens if you can't make certain facial expressions? For example, what if you've had botox treatments that paralyze your "frown muscles" (corrugator supercilii)? A new study by psychologist David Havas of the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that this could impair your ability to experience the emotions associated with these facial expressions.
Researchers measured the time it took participants to recognize and react to negative situations, such as being ignored on a birthday, both before and after administering botox injections. They found that those with paralyzed frown muscles took significantly more time to recognize negative situations as negative and to react to them. This finding has important implications for those in sales.
In sales, every second counts. Prospective buyers can decide in mere moments whether to sign on the dotted line or simply say "sayonara," so it's important to immediately impress them using all the tools in your body language toolbox. If you can't promptly recognize and react to someone's emotional state, you could alienate a co-worker, blow a sale, or even lose a client.
Building rapport is another area where time is a factor and empathy is essential. If you stare at me with the same face when I tell you my mother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer that you wore when I was talking about my new puppy, I'm going to think either you're not paying attention or you don't care – neither of which will help you establish rapport. Every facial expression you misread is a missed opportunity to build rapport, and every facial expression you fail to return breaks the rapport you've been trying to build.
Recognizing and returning facial expressions is fundamental to demonstrating emotional engagement, and selling is all about engaging the emotions. If reading this didn't raise your eyebrows, it may be time to blow off the botox. Looking your best is important, but don't rob yourself of your ability to exhibit empathy just to lose a few years from your face. After all, who would you rather buy from: an inexperienced, artificial-looking, blank-faced rookie or a genuine, seasoned, sympathetic professional?